Thursday, January 31, 2008

a tool on a push-bike

I cycle to work. This morning I rode past a woman with two beautiful large dogs in Eikibin park. They were well behaved and off their leashes – and rightfully so, it was a big park. One of the dogs – ‘Rusty’ – was on the bike path and in my way. Another cyclist was coming from the opposite direction and Rusty was also in his way. The woman, about ten feet from the path, had stopped, held the second dog, and was calling for Rusty. I slowed down smiled at the happy dog as I carefully went by him – he was awesome. He was sniffing something in the grass – more important than his owner - and his wagging tail was taking up about half of my path.

Then I looked up and saw the second cyclist. He was a middle aged man, twig-skinny, and wearing only ridiculous neon spandex. And he was furious. He rang a loud bell several times at the dog and snarled at the lady “Come on woman!!” as he went by.

I wanted to stop and shout back “Settle down there Armstrong!”. If he looked back I could add “You’re a tool!”. At ten years younger and ten inches taller I am pretty safe telling ‘Lance’ what I think of him. I would avoid swearing because that would only help Lance’s case. All he could do about my insult is ride away - even more angry. I would have also loved to stop and talk to the lady. I would pet ‘Rusty’ and say something witty like “What a beautiful dog. Don’t give that old fart a second thought. He’s control-obsessed. His wife probably left him for a happier man, his kids don’t call, and all that he has left to live for is fat free yogurt, the office, and the pride of getting to the office early without contributing to carbon emissions.”

Also, is Lance not in the exact same demographic that also sits in little Mazda Miatas and gets furious with cyclists on the road? Why all this anger in middle-aged men? It appears to me that both wealthy men and poor men are generally much happier than the ‘almost-made-its’ with perhaps some uncertainty-of-purpose in life. Livin' might not be easy but to rage on innocent people? Really? And I am not against all anger - some situations certainly do call for it. For example, I do not feel that Lance would benefit from a big hug and some sympathy. Hugs are for people with low self-esteem living always on the edge of fierce defensiveness. That is not lance. Lance is all about pre-emptive offense and he has confidence to spare. A better solution to Lance would be public disrespect – an anti-Lance attitude from the rest of us. Maybe even some ridicule. People like Lance give all cyclists a bad name. Kate walks to work and generally hates cyclists because she has been yelled at and almost run over a few times in recent months.

I can offer a simple list of rules for effective cycling: 1. Be reasonable and polite. There, that covers it.

When you approach a pedestrian from behind ring a bell early and if your path is cleared slow down anyway and say ‘thank you’ or ‘cheers’ as you go by – how difficult is that? If your path is still blocked - relax, slow down, say 'excuse me mate' - perhaps someone is tuned out and thinking about better days, perhaps a few people having a good conversation. No walker gets any benefit or joy from slowing you down. Why, why, why the rage? In some parts of Europe all cyclists stay on the road – and all cars are polite to them. In these countries cars will gladly slow down to bicycle-speed for minutes to avoid risking any injury. Here too many drivers are impatient. I love to jump on the road when there is room but when I feel like I am impeding traffic I use the sidewalk – it’s the most sensible attitude I can think of - but I always show respect to people on foot. In Brisbane we also have some awesome ‘bike paths’. Some are 'shared' with walkers and some are for just bikes but people like Lance are ruthless in their treatment of all of these as ‘bike-only highways’. They have no problem verbally abusing pedestrians, or dogs, as they fly by. I’m disgusted – I hate being in any way associated with these tools. Sometimes, if a walking path is crowded, I love walking on an adjacent bike path and fueling their rage.

And if you are reading this – Lance - please make an effort to settle down. Sleep in tomorrow, put your feet up right now, eat more ice cream and bacon, call your mom, purchase looser less-reflective clothing. Buy your wife or daughter some flowers. Borrow some sugar form next-door and sprinkle it on your multi-grain cereal. And just for today, forget about the stock market and read the comics again. And bike slower or find a race track.

Sadly - I said nothing to Lance this morning. And I’m sorry to say I also did not stop and talk to the lady. But I did intervene in a similar situation some weeks ago and I am becoming ever more likely to do so again. Actually – if I see the same woman with ‘Rusty’ tomorrow – I’ll stop and tell her how I feel. Better late than never.

1 comment:

Morgana said...

You write very well.